India is close to signing two defense deals with Israel as it seeks to deepen ties with the Middle Eastern nation before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit in July, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The deals include anti-tank missiles and a naval air defense weapon system, the people said, asking not to be identified given the information is private. Still, the plan for the first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister indicates that cooperation goes beyond Delhi's status as the largest buyer of Israeli military hardware.
"The visit is a big milestone," said Shailesh Kumar, senior Asia analyst at political risk firm Eurasia Group. "Officials in both countries believe they face a common external threat: terrorism. Working with Israel fits into Modi's bigger pivot of deeper relations with the U.S. given the U.S.-Israel friendship."
The deals for Spike anti-tank missiles for India's army and Barak-8 air defense missiles for its navy are expected to be finalized in the next two months, the people said. The pacts are worth $1.5 billion, they said, and will see the delivery of the 8,000 missiles two years after the contracts are signed.
The missile deals follow transactions finalized last week for India to obtain medium- and long-range surface-to-air missiles worth $2 billion.
They're part of PM Modi's $250-billion plan to modernize the armed forces by 2025 amid tensions with neighbors China and Pakistan.
Since PM Modi came to power in May 2014, his government has shed his predecessors' reservations on talking about India's ties with Israel.